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The Democratic Strategist

Political Strategy for a Permanent Democratic Majority

“Pro-Business,” Anti-GOP

One pundit-task that has a shelf-life so inherently short as to make it pointless is the State of the Union Address (SOTU) forecast, which focuses on the secret of the presiden’s remarks that the whole world will soon know. So I’m more inclined to wait until after the speech to say anything.
But there’s one source of confusion going on in the runup to SOTU 2011 that is very likely to survive it: the belief that in conveying a “pro-business” tone in the speech Obama will be making goo-goo eyes at Republicans in pursuit of a “bipartisanship” they have no intention of reciprocating.
I don’t think so. Yes, Obama is likely to make a very Clintonian pitch for “progress, not partisanship” and lay out modest spending and tax proposals aimed at promoting private-sector job creation–the kind of thing Republicans used to like.
But in the current political context, this sort of “centrist” pitch will represent a deadly attack on the very fundamental tenets of the Republican Party. GOPers have now decided, and tell us every day, that the Great Recession was caused by Big Government (too much spending, taxes and regulation), and that the way to bring the economy roaring back is very simple: reduce the size and strength of government. Never mind if indiscriminate budget cuts result in layoffs of public employees and reduced buying power for consumers losing government benefits; recessions aren’t about consumer demand, they are about “job creators” going on strike, Galt-like, because they are constrained by high taxes and regulation.
Having half-convinced themeslves that Obama was going to give them the political cover they need to go after Social Security and Medicare (beloved of their own electoral base), or offer to negotiate a budget based on their enormous lists of non-defense-discretionary targets, GOPers will not react well to a speech that talks about new public investments that promote growth and innovation; the very idea offends them at this point. So however conciliatory Obama sounds, he appears to be setting a trap whereby conservatives go out of their way to make it clear they don’t give a damn about the economy except as the latest excuse to grind old axes against progressive governance and policies. We’ll soon know if I’m right, and if I am, if it works.

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